Introduce a Girl to Engineering

Inspiring Young Women

On April 23, 2018, Tata & Howard hosted an Introduce a Girl to Engineering event. Thirty-four junior girl scouts (from grades 4-5) from five local troops attended our interactive and informative overview of environmental engineering.

Women engineers from the company were eager to welcome the scouts. They know from experience how important it is to inspire young girls and get them excited about a successful career in engineering. They also know the challenges women often face in the field of engineering long known to be male-dominated.

Slowly, however, this trend is beginning to change, as more young women are earning engineering degrees.

Girls scouts groupTwenty-five years ago, when Tata & Howard was a newly established company, graduating classes from engineering schools may have been 1-2 percent women. As recently as 2016, about 20 percent of graduating engineers were female, and today, Tata & Howard stands out in the Water and Wastewater industry out as a 100% employee-owned company, led by two women co-president engineers, and 38 percent of its workforce being female engineers.

These women engineers are the future role models and inspiration for young girls. On this night, they were excited to share their experiences with the girl scouts and tell them what it is like to be an environmental engineer in the water and wastewater industry.

Their excitement was unmistakable.

We presented a colorful slideshow illustrating how clean water is delivered to our homes—starting from groundwater or surface water sources and pumped through pipes to a water treatment facility. The water treatment process was shown with a simple water filtration demonstration, screening dirty water with both coarse rocks and a coffee filter.  After going through a treatment process, it was explained that clean water is then stored in tanks and eventually ends up in the pipes that lead to our homes—and any place where we can turn on the tap and drink water.

The presentation was followed by questions, answers, and everyone’s favorite…pizza. The girls were then divided into seven teams and instructed to build a freestanding water tank using only a handful of ordinary items, such as a plastic cup (the tank), drinking straws, bubble gum, band aids, string, thumbtacks, string, paper clips, and toothpicks.  The challenge lasted 30 minutes, after which, 8 ounces of water was poured into the water tank creations to test for structural integrity and left to stand for 30 seconds without spilling any liquid.

Girl Day Water Tank Instructions

Lots of excitement and fun ensued as the water towers wobbled, leaked and finally toppled into a watery mess! Not all the tanks collapsed however. A few withstood the water test challenge and a winning team emerged—the Llamacorns—who built a tower standing tall at 11 ¼”. The Greatest Kitty Cookie team came in a close second with a 9 ½” tall structure.

Before leaving for the evening, each scout was presented with a certificate and a merit badge. Many thanks to all the Tata & Howard women volunteers who helped make Introduce a Girl to Engineering a memorable and enjoyable event for these young girls.

And hopefully…the girls also left with a greater appreciation and enthusiasm about pursuing a career in engineering.

Team Results:

Double Bubble – 8 ¼” Collapsed
The River & the Sky – 16 ½” Collapsed
Beautifully Disgusting – 6 ½” Leaked
Llamacorns – 11 ¼” Winning team!
The Greatest Kitty Challenge – 9 ½” – Second Place
Royalty – 11 ½” Collapsed
Water Dogs – 4 ¾” Leaked

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day 2017

introduce-a-girl-to-engineering-dayThis week is Engineers Week, which is celebrated in February of each year, and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day always falls during Engineers Week. Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day 2017 fell on February 23 this year, and since “Girl Day” is very important to Tata & Howard, we decided to celebrate the day by inviting local middle school girls to come into the office for a special event. The evening was a great success – and also quite a bit of fun!

Students and engineers alike provided personal introductions.

In the engineering industry, only 11% of the workforce are women. However, Tata & Howard has always been above this statistic and since the beginning, has striven to recognize the value of women in engineering. Tata & Howard was established in 1992 by Donald Tata, P.E. and Paul Howard, P.E. Initially a two-person firm, the company quickly grew, and out of the first 20 hires, eight were female. This trend continued, and today, 32% of our engineering workforce is female, including the firm’s two co-presidents, Karen Gracey, P.E. and Jenna Rzasa, P.E.

To celebrate our commitment to women in engineering, Tata & Howard hosted an Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day event for local middle school girls at our corporate office in Marlborough, Massachusetts. All of our Marlborough-based female engineers participated with the exception of Maya Rhinehart, who was instead volunteering at Girls Inc. The overwhelming participation of our female engineers exemplifies their commitment to the industry as well as their incredible sense of teamwork and philanthropy.

girl-dayThe evening started with a brief introduction given by Karen, including a story of her experience at the University of Vermont, where she was sometimes the only female in her engineering classes. Justine Carroll, P.E., Project Manager and Team Leader, then presented a slideshow on environmental engineering and talked about the services provided by Tata & Howard, after which the female engineers each shared their personal journeys to choosing the engineering field. The girls then enjoyed a dinner of pizza and salad during which Amanda Cavaliere, Project Manager and Team Leader, led a discussion on the value of great teachers.

Once dinner was finished, the girls participated in a water tank building activity with some of our female engineers. Each group was given supplies including a disposable cup, rubber bands, chewing gum, string, drinking straws, paper clips, push pins, and Band-Aids and were charged with building the tallest elevated “tank” that could successfully hold eight ounces of water for 30 seconds. For 30 minutes, the girls brainstormed and built alongside the engineers until their masterpieces were finished. Immediately after, the tanks were tested for their structural stability. Karen poured the water into each of the “tanks” and we started the timer. Unfortunately, neither tank successfully lasted for 30 seconds, but we assured the girls that even engineers who attempted this activity at local trade organizations were unsuccessful. After all – Band-aids and chewing gum are no substitute for concrete and steel! One thing is for sure: there were plenty of laughs during the testing portion of the event.



Each girl was sent home with a certificate of completion and many smiles. The event was a huge success for not only the young girls, but also for the employee-owners who participated, and we are already planning for next year’s Girl Day. How did you celebrate Girl Day or E-Week? Let us know in the comments below – and Happy Engineers Week!